(A Note from Sonia Marsh) I started my virtual blog tour on August 31st. I shall be interviewed by bloggers around the world during September and October. I hope you visit these creative bloggers as many are authors and experts in their fields.
Please hop over to:
Sonia’s 1st interview with author Susan Pohlman on Expat Chat 8-31-12
Sonia’s 2nd Interview with Shirley Showalter on 100 memoirs 9-3-12
With instruction, I learned to fly the twin-engine, single-seat aircraft at the field where I purchased it.
The flight manual specified a minimum runway length of three hundred “unobstructed” feet; in other words, a football field. But, I was determined to find a way to fly it from somewhere close to home, where I wouldn’t have to dismantle and transport it.
A Little League baseball diamond that was a few hundred feet from our home was nowhere near three hundred feet long in itself, but it bordered the waterfront where there was a drop-off to the ocean. I figured, “If I get the wheels off the ground before I reach the seawall, I will be just fine heading out over the open water.”
Coming in for a landing on that small field would be tricky, but I decided to worry about that later. I always felt that if I overanalyzed everything I wanted to do, I would eventually talk myself out of taking any chances in life. Besides, I was confident that I could pull this off.
That morning, my young bride slept in, deciding she wouldn’t watch what she considered an ill-advised take-off attempt. She actually used stronger words than that when I told her what I was planning to do. But nonetheless, she raised her head off the pillow and whispered, “Have a good flight.”
Quite a group of friends and neighbors gathered at the field to watch me launch the plane and render moral support. I started the two engines and strapped myself in with the seatbelt, shoulder harness, and put on my helmet. It was time to go for it. I gave both engines full throttle. My friends guided the wing until I got moving.
It was as if everything happened in slow motion. The engines roared loudly, and I was going faster and faster. The end of the field, and the ocean, were approaching, but I still was not in the air. But, I was mentally committed. I knew I could make it!
My friends were all yelling, “Shut it down! Shut it down!” They thought I wasn’t going to make it off the ground. I had dreamt about trying this for way too long. I wasn’t about to shut anything down.
Just feet from the edge of the seawall, the front wheel lifted off! I was airborne, and smiling! Gaining altitude, I glanced below me at the jagged rocks passing harmlessly under my butt. I felt I had safely achieved my goal as I reached twenty and then thirty feet of altitude.
Suddenly, a sick feeling set in. You know—the feeling that takes over your gut the moment you realize things are about to go downhill fast. As I got out over the cold seawater, I felt a sinking sensation, in more ways than one. I failed to consider a basic fundamental of flight. Air over warm fields rises, but air over cold ocean water falls, causing down-drafts.
Losing altitude, my heart sank with disappointment. There was nothing I could do. I realized it was hopeless. I was going to crash.
If I hit the water with those propellers spinning at thousands of RPM’s, they would shatter into pieces, possibly hurting or killing me. I shut down both engines just prior to hitting the water and took a really deep breath.
Because the heavy engines were mounted up high, behind my head, the aircraft instantly flipped upside down and sank like a rock to the bottom, coming to rest on the ocean floor. Hanging upside down, I was strapped into my shoulder harness and seatbelt, wearing my helmet. Under ten to twelve feet of ice cold water, I knew if I panicked while fumbling to undo all the clasps of my safety gear, I was a goner. Still holding my breath, I thought to myself, “Everything better go smoothly.”
While underwater and restrained, time stood still. I experienced an eerie feeling of total aloneness, much different from the euphoric, all alone feeling I had expected to enjoy while flying. In the darkness, I blindly searched for the release clasps and easily found them. It was something I had practiced, just in case the need ever arose. I undid my shoulder restraints first and then my seatbelt. All buckles and straps released without a problem and I swam away from my seat.
Attempting to surface, I found myself trapped under the fabric wing, so I dove back down and swam to the side until I could safely surface. That was a move I remembered from reading a section in my flight manual, titled, “In the event of a water landing.”
My friends began clapping when my helmet popped through the surface of the water. I was surprised to see everyone nice and dry on shore, just watching. Nobody was rushing to assist me.
Wearing a long face, I walked home by myself to get rope. At the house, I checked on my wife. She raised her head off her pillow, saw me soaked from head to toe, and smiled. She simple stated, “How was your flight?” It was her way of saying, “I told you that was a stupid idea,” I returned her smile, saying, “I’ll fill you in after I get the plane out of the ocean.”
Feeling quite downhearted back at the field, I dove in and tied the rope to the plane. My friends dragged it out of the bay. Once home, I flushed and washed everything out with fresh water. Then, just to be safe, I decided to ship both engines back to the factory and have them rebuilt with the “high performance upgrade” that I originally opted not to pay for. Those few extra horsepower would have kept me in the air.
Sonia Marsh Says: Tom, this truly shows the “Gutsy” side of a young man who just goes for it. Thankfully your mishap ended well, and your new bride had you back home, although it sounds like you tried again with more powerful engines.
Don’t forget to vote for your favorite August, “My Gutsy Story.” You have until September 12th to vote and the winner will be announced on September 13th. Please go to the sidebar to VOTE and click on your favorite story of the month. Thanks, and please share with your favorite social media buttons below.
Do you have a “My Gutsy Story” you’d like to share?